ALSP Factor recently announced a close partnership group that includes several companies, including BlackBoiler, the automated contract review and markup pioneer. This has created the opportunity to roll out a new business model for BlackBoiler.
CEO and founder, Dan Broderick, told Artificial Lawyer that this move is a big step for BlackBoiler, which uses NLP to study how lawyers in a company have marked up certain types of contract in the past, then applies that learning to the review of new contracts of the same type.
‘What we are doing is opening up a new business model, where Factor will be able to build their own models [for NLP driven contract markup] to service their clients,’ he explained.
Factor, which spun out of Axiom in 2019 and then rebranded at the start of last year, works with a growing number of corporates, as well as hand-in-hand with law firms. Much of its work is focused on contract negotiation and review, often using a managed services approach.
In this scenario the human reviewers, who are skilled lawyers working inside Factor, may be looking at similar types of contract quite frequently. With BlackBoiler’s technology they can support their review work for specific clients – and the specific contract types of those clients, but without Broderick and his team having to do all the NLP training legwork themselves.
Ultimately this helps BlackBoiler to expand its client base, i.e by reaching out through Factor, while taking some of the operational load off the company in terms of custom-fitting the NLP tech for each client’s needs. In turn it makes Factor more efficient and potentially able to take on more work with the same number of staff.
Broderick noted that the idea first came up in London at a conference at the start of 2020 when he spoke to Factor CEO, Varun Mehta. They did a proof of concept study, and with the recent announcement of the partnership group they are now sending the message that this is what they can offer together.
‘We are empowering Factor to use BlackBoiler,’ he added. ‘Before we used to curate the [NLP] model and help clients get set up. Now, Factor will be able to get things up to speed and deploy the software.’
He added that it made a lot of sense to work this way as Factor was constantly generating lots of data about how clients wanted their contracts to be marked up. By using BlackBoiler that knowledge gets folded back into the process in a very efficient way.
Going beyond this initiative, Broderick said that the company’s philosophy was to work with other tools and service providers, and not try to be a ‘huge CLM platform’.
‘We want to work with ALSPs, law firms and other tech companies,’ he said, and added: ‘We have to think in terms of how we will work with other tech tools, we cannot assume that people will come to us.’
He noted that when they are buying tech for their company, e.g. a HR system, the first thing they do is make sure it connects well with Slack and other tools that they rely upon. They don’t want tools that operate in a silo. The same philosophy has to exist with legal tech.
Broderick and this site also talked briefly about contract standardisation, which clearly connects to the world of any company that is trying to review documents that occur with a high frequency.
‘Clearly there is no reason for there to be 800 different kinds of NDA, and standard contracts help us, they are not our enemy,’ he said.
He added, using a great bit of imagery: ‘A contract is a collection of wounds, it’s the result of people trying to protect themselves from things happening again.’
That meant that even standard contracts would probably keep evolving and needed to be adaptable, but he welcomed the projects, such as OneNDA, that are working in this area.
He concluded with the point that just having the legal industry agree on a common ordering system for key sections in contracts would be a massive step, and it would also help tech companies that review them.
Last word goes to Ed Sohn, SVP, Head of Product & Solutions at Factor, who added in a statement: ‘In partnership with BlackBoiler, Factor will not only be able to help clients improve speed to contracting by driving efficiencies in reviewing agreements, but also help them more rigorously standardise these agreements. BlackBoiler’s technology is the market standard for reviewing and editing high-volume contracts. Based on early results, we expect to see significantly enhanced results over time.’
The other members of the Factor close partnership are: CLM Agiloft, flexible resourcing group Priori Legal, and Acadia, a risk management company. Other companies could potentially join in the future, the ALSP said.
And, Kira also announced it would be part of this group, just a couple of weeks ago. How that will work now that it is part of Litera is unclear, but presumably they can still find a way to operate as planned. How Zuva, the new corporate-focused contract analysis company, which has been formed by Kira’s CEO, Noah Waisberg, fits into this is also unclear as yet. One solution would be for Zuva to take Kira’s place in the partnership, or perhaps for both to be part of it. We’ll find out soon.